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Jeannette ordinance targets delinquent property owners

| Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 9:20 a.m.

If a property owner has a debt to the city of Jeannette, it might become tough for that person to get occupancy permits.

Wednesday night, city council approved the first reading of an ordinance that prohibits the issuance of not only occupancy permits, but those for demolition, construction and improvements to any property without the payment of outstanding taxes or municipal service fees.

Solicitor Gary Falatovich said the proposed ordinance addresses all delinquent debts, such as garbage payments, fines and outstanding real estate taxes, "anything that's associated with the maintenance, use or occupancy of real property."

Falatovich explained that if the applicant has a debt on another property within the city, the permit will be denied.

The language in the proposed ordinance also stipulates if a property is owned by a corporation or other type of business entity, the names of its owners, officers or shareholders must be disclosed.

If those people are found to have a debt to the city, that corporation would not get a permit. It would be the same scenario if an individual applying for a permit is found to be an owner, shareholder or officer of a corporation that owes the city.

"We drafted it this way to preclude those situations where people can merely avoid this type of requirement by going out and forming a corporation and doing the same thing they've done in the past, only under a fictitious name or through a corporate entity," Falatovich said.

Jeannette was in a financial crunch as a 2005 budget was prepared. Council approved a $4.5 million spending plan that included a 6.12-mill increase, from 27 mills to 33.12 mills.

Councilman Michael Cafasso said the city was owed some $49,000 in delinquent garbage fees alone. One mill generates about $63,000.

"These figures are disgusting," Cafasso said. "Our city is owed almost 1 mill in outstanding garbage (payments). I don't care if it's $1. People have got to pay. We are a struggling community."

Cafasso said there were landlords who owed on multiple accounts.

"They're going to be surprised after the second reading of the ordinance," Cafasso said. "We mean business. We have to collect this money. You're not going to get an occupancy permit for any renter or any tenant you may have without paying your debt to this city."

For the ordinance to be placed into law, a second reading must be approved.

Council also approved the first reading of two potential amendments to ordinances. One would change the procedures for collecting delinquent garbage accounts in an attempt to recover money that is owed.

The second would permit Code Enforcement Officer George Lender to send violation notices to those who construct, utilize or occupy a property without proper inspection permits. Those tasks, as well as inspection duties, currently fall to fire Chief Mike Bertolino.

Bertolino still could send the notices, but the proposed ordinance would allow the chores to be handled by a second person.

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